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Victor Hill: Sleuthing an elusive candidate on election night

9:49 PM, Nov 6, 2012   |    comments
Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill
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JONESBORO, Ga. (COMMENTARY) -- News people aren't stalkers.  It's an unattractive word.  It has connotations of creepiness.  So don't call us that.

But the truth is that we have to attain certain skills that parallel the unsavory folks we know as stalkers.  We're putting them to use on Election Night, where photographer Mike Zakel and I have the assignment of watching the Clayton County sheriff's race.

The race features former sheriff Victor Hill, who is currently under indictment and may not not take office in January if elected, despite his tangible popularity with Clayton County voters.

Yet Hill has been a bit media-unfriendly.

Even when he unexpectedly won this year's Democratic primary against incumbent Kem Kimbrough, Hill declined to respond to phone messages, texts and third-party queries from news media requesting even the blandest of comment regarding his upbeat political fortunes.

Election night would be another such night.  Hill is likely to beat write-in candidate Garland Watkins.  It would be a great opportunity for Hill to crow a bit if the people of Clayton County vote to return him to office.

But Hill apparently isn't interested.

If Hill is having an election night shindig -- as most candidates might -- it's in Parts Unknown.  I called his cell phone to try to learn his victory party's time and location.  He didn't answer, and that's consistent with his MO over the course of his candidacy.\

When we visited some of his volunteers, holding signs on Tara Boulevard, they all claimed they didn't know the whereabouts of Hill's election night party.  A group of them piled into a red SUV moments after we arrived and left.  For fun, we followed them for a few miles toward Lake Spivey, then peeled off.

I put out calls to police sources in Clayton County.  I put out calls to some of Hill's political opponents.  I called one of his attorneys.  Nobody knew where Hill was planning to declare victory.

Finally, a connected contact gave me the name of a street near Lake Spivey, and the suggestion that Hill might be there tonight.  Zakel and I drove up the street.  Among the cars parked outside, we spotted the red SUV in the driveway.  Bingo.

I'd also gotten a description of a car Hill had been spotted driving around Clayton County today (grey Dodge Charger, distinctive markings on the driver side door).  It appeared Hill wasn't at the Lake Spivey house yet.  So we left, figuring we'd return before the night was out.

A little while later, another contact told Zakel that Hill might be found at a restaurant in College Park election night.Meantime, Watkins cheerfully gave us the location of his victory party.  We went there, but are plotting our possible next move as I write.

Our night has improved.  At least we have two tangible addresses for Victor Hill, which may or may not produce the elusive former and perhaps future sheriff.

Hill could make this a lot easier by just returning my phone call.  Except, I didn't leave a voice mail.  The mailbox on his cell phone was full and wasn't accepting new messages.

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